16th-century ship found – in Kent quarry lake

3D model of the ship's remains (Wessex Archaeology)
3D model of the ship's remains (Wessex Archaeology)

Workers dredging for aggregates in a Kent quarry lakebed last April were surprised to come across the remains of what has turned out to be a rare Elizabethan-era ship.

The hull timbers lay about 300m inland on a Dungeness headland, and the CEMEX quarry team were quick to call in experts from Wessex Archaeology, while the county council requested support and funding from Historic England. The find has been kept quiet but is due to be featured on the BBC2 TV series Digging for Britain at 8pm tonight (1 January).

Archaeologists record the remains of a 16th-century ship found at a quarry in Kent © Wessex Archaeology
Archaeologists record the ship's timbers on site (Wessex Archaeology)

On the programme Prof Alice Roberts will discuss the discovery of the unidentified English-built sea-going vessel, very few examples of which survive, with Wessex Archaeology marine archaeologist Andrea Hamel and Historic England's head of marine heritage strategy Antony Firth.

“This was one of those completely unexpected finds,” says Prof Roberts. “Who expects to find a historic shipwreck in a quarry? Luckily the workers recognised they’d stumbled on something quite extraordinary and called in the experts from Wessex Archaeology. 

“This large piece of a hull is so well-preserved, it’s giving us precious insights into Elizabethan shipbuilding.”

Andrea Hamel, Antony Firth and Alice Roberts ((HE)
From left: Andrea Hamel, Antony Firth and Alice Roberts discuss the Tudor ship find (Historic England)

More than 100 hull timbers were recovered, with dendrochronological analysis confirming them as English oak hewn between 1558 and 1580. This was a transitional period for shipbuilding in northern Europe, as vessels moved from traditional clinker construction to the form in which the frame is built first and flush-laid planking added later – as on the Mary Rose.

Detail of a rare Elizabethan ship found at a quarry in Kent © Wessex Archaeology(1)
Timbers from the Elizabethan ship (Wessex Archaeology)

The English Channel was a major trading route in Tudor times. If what is now the quarry site lay on the coast during that period, the ship is likely either to have wrecked on the shingle headland or been discarded at the end of its useful life. 

The archaeologists are recording the vessel's details using laser-scanning and digital photography. Once their work is complete, the timbers will be reburied in the lake so that they can go on being preserved in its silt.

Also on Divernet: Diving Brothers' Wreck Find ‘Biggest Since Mary Rose', 750-Year-Old Wreck Found Off Dorset – Timbers And All, Cash For Divers Recovering Artefacts, Spotlit: England's Historic Shipwreck Sites



Get a weekly roundup of all Divernet news and articles 🤿

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

Notify of

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
4 months ago

Would have been nice to see a couple more pictures of it, but never mind

George Gee
George Gee
4 months ago

I dug up a Ships Anchor years ago,it was found in the sand,in front of Fort Redoubt.Hythe.

Rayo C
Rayo C
4 months ago

Good on the Cemex guy’s for their diligence, brilliant.

4 months ago

While I was watching Prof.Alice Roberts on the TV. I started looking up information on my Laptop about ‘Dig for England’ and found your site and her programme was advertising your site with the latest available information! So congratulations for being so up to date! And on the ball!! Les Payne, Cornwall

4 months ago

In my humble opinion, I wish they wouldn’t re-bury it! It should be preserved and put in a museum so the public can view it.

related Divernet Posts

Popular Divernet Posts

Connect With Us

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
Enable Notifications OK No thanks